Neanderthals were well suited for ‘explosive’ short sprints, not long-distance marathons

| | November 1, 2019
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Homo sapiens are well-designed for loping along for long distances across open landscapes—especially when compared to Neanderthals. They had legs and feet that, recent research suggests, were better suited to sprinting, squatting, and hilly hiking than to running.

Unlike the open African plains in which H. sapiens lived and hunted, the early landscapes in Europe were more densely forested. Hunting a forest-dwelling animal requires a very different hunting strategy than running down an animal on a savanna. Neanderthals were much more likely to have been ambush hunters, relying on sudden, explosive speed and power to overcome their prey.

One piece of bodily evidence for this is that Neanderthals had shorter legs than we do, particularly in the tibia and fibula, the two leg bones below the knee. Along with a more compact body and shorter stature than modern H. sapiens, this is generally thought to be an adaptation to the colder environments of Europe between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago; more compact bodies mean less surface area through which body heat can escape. But their shorter legs probably also made Neanderthals better suited to sprints.

Related article:  Why human evolution is far from over—and may be speeding up

Read full, original post: Neanderthal Legs and Feet—Suited to Sprinting

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